Indigenous seal hunts

The commercial seal hunt that takes place off the East coast of Canada and Inuit seal hunting are two very different activities conducted by different people, for different species, at a different scale, and for different reasons.

Inuit in the Canadian Arctic hunt adult ringed seals, which are taken over the course of the year. A multi-day hunting trip might result in a catch of a few animals that are used primarily for food. This is far removed from Canada’s East coast hunt, which in a matter of a few weeks slaughters tens or hundreds of thousands of newly-weaned harp seal pups less than three months old for their fur.

IFAW does not oppose the killing of seals for food, clothing and other products for local use by indigenous peoples. Nor do we oppose the sale and distribution of seal products from subsistence hunts within indigenous communities.

What we do oppose, however, is hiding a cruel, wasteful, large-scale industrial slaughter behind indigenous subsistence hunting, deliberately blurring the distinction between the two. Seals are an important source of food for Inuit people, but government statistics suggest that the East coast commercial seal hunt wastes over 90% of the meat, dumping it in the water or leaving it on the ice to rot.

The European Union’s ban on seal products includes an exemption for products from indigenous hunts. However, it took the Canadian government years to even begin the process to put a certification program for Inuit seal products into place.

IFAW’s campaign against the commercial seal hunt has never targeted subsistence hunting, by Inuit or anyone else. Those who claim otherwise are misinformed, or worse, are attempting to discredit IFAW with misinformation.

For more information on the non-indigenous commercial seal hunt, see Canada's Commercial Seal Hunt: Past Present and Future.